Category: Tips for Sellers
1. Turn on all the lights. I once arrived to show my listing to discover that the homeowners were not turning on the hallway lights at the entrance to their condo. It had been on the market a little too long, and some of the feedback said it felt dark. When I began to check the other areas of the condo, I discovered they were turning on most of the overhead lights but not the table lamps. In the bathroom, the vanity lights were on but not the one over the shower. After the showing I explained that every light should be on for future showings and they were happy to comply – it just had not occurred to them.
2. Accept every showing if at all possible. They are almost always at an inopportune time, but that’s a small speed bump on the way to your new home. Even waiting a day can change the mind of a buyer. Buyers who are looking on Thursday and Friday might abandon Friday altogether if they find something they like on Thursday.
3. Pets can be problematic for a number of reasons. Pet odor can be a major turn-off and honestly, we can all become accustomed to smells so as not to notice them. People without pets often notice more quickly when entering a home. Ask your agent if he or she notices pet odor and it will give them the opportunity to be frank without fear of offending you if you ask first. Make sure litter boxes are spotless and out of the way. Doggie daycare may be an everyday expense you don’t want, but during showings it can make a big difference if you can’t get home to remove the dog. It could make thousands of dollars of difference if the buyers can’t go into a space because the dog is being restrained there.
4. Many of my older clients in the Lowcountry like their window unit air conditioners. They are frugal by nature and often mistakenly believe that window units are cheaper to run by just cooling the bedroom at night and not the entire house. That may have been true at one time, but newer HVAC systems are typically much more efficient to run. When buyers see window units in a home with central air, they immediately assume the that the HVAC is not working properly. You can always put them back after the offer is accepted.
5. I always welcome the nosy neighbors with open arms to my open houses and sellers should as well. Your neighbors might sell your home through word of mouth. They often want their family and friends nearby. In fact, invite them in and ask them if they know anyone who might be looking.
6. I know it’s hard, but keep things tidy. You don’t have to live that way every day, but while the house is on the market the beds must be made, laundry put away, bathrooms kept pristine, and clutter gone. Once the house goes under contract, you can take a vacation from making the bed. A great way to de-clutter quickly and works great for folks with small children is to purchase some extra laundry baskets. A quick tour through the house tossing into the basket as you go is easy, and you can carry it to the car with you when you leave.
7. And speaking of which, it really does help if homeowners aren’t present during showings. Most buyers don’t want to hurt your feelings with their comments and will not give honest feedback in most cases. They don’t feel comfortable looking in closets or opening cabinets and they will not linger taking in everything. I had buyers in a home who would not even go into the room where the sellers were because they felt they were intruding. More importantly, you might say something that seems completely innocuous but could hurt your potential sale. You are more likely to overshare than not. Some sellers believe that they can sell the home features because they know it best. If that’s your thought, write a lengthy addendum to the seller’s disclosure and point out all your special features. There will be some rare exceptions to this rule and a good agent can help you make good choices about how to limit the exposure if it’s absolutely necessary.
Call me to discuss the many ways I can help you sell your home – spoiler alert, there are more than 7 ways!
Zestimate®. It has “estimate” right in its name and yet it can be very problematic for both buyers and sellers alike. Sellers are frustrated when the selling price located right above the Zestimate® appears to be overpriced and hurts their cause. On the other hand, sellers often sit down with me at a listing appointment and have unreasonable expectations for what they can realize in the sale of their home because the Zestimate® is too high. Buyers are disappointed when they realize the home they just fell in love with online, is not going to be purchased for the Zestimate® price. Zillow® has in fact, offered a prize to anyone who can rewrite their program to become more accurate. They have also been sued for conducting appraisals without a license.
There are several reasons this “one size fits all” product is not always accurate. Sure, they have complicated algorithms that look at square footage, bedrooms and zip codes but there are too many other elements that cannot be factored into determining value. My home for example, is on Johns Island in a small neighborhood with 15 homes built in 2005-2006. Zillow® will aggregate my home with the mobile homes nearby and a horse farm down the road to determine the value. Just because these homes are nearby, does not mean they are comparable. Even if you can narrow down to similar homes in a large subdivision, often times there are phases in those subdivisions that can account for differences in quality and materials.
In Charleston, views greatly affect the home’s value. The differences between marshfront, marshview, waterview, riverview, oceanview, and oceanfront are unique and sometimes subtle. Likewise, my Johns Island home faces the other homes that are similar in quality to mine, but five of the homes in our subdivision face across the street from the mobile homes. That type of view can also affect value.
Perhaps the most important reason to use a qualified Realtor® is to assess condition. Zillow® cannot see inside your home to see your upgraded kitchen and beautiful tiled bath. Likewise, it cannot see into your neighbor’s house to see that baseboards are missing, door handles are broken, and windows have not been maintained. A home with lots of dated wallpaper and worn finishes is treated the same as a newer and more updated one. My neighbor’s property has beautiful, big Live Oaks and mine does not. Even a qualified appraiser might have trouble assessing the inherent value of the trees. There are also many things only someone who knows the area and is informed about the community can bring to the table as well. Did that neighborhood experience flooding during the recent hurricane, is there a new school being built nearby, or even what new zoning might be coming from the local municipality. A good real estate agent stays up to date on local news and events. In addition, an experienced agent will know what questions to ask homeowners such as traffic patterns, proximity to local businesses and if high tide ever makes travel problematic.
Condition of the exterior, interior and neighborhood all influence value. As an experienced Realtor®, I can also tell you that Zillow® will not be able to determine if the home you just loved on line smells like cat pee in person!
Call me and I will come to your home to conduct a free Comparative Market Report to find out what your home might be worth.
Are you thinking of putting your house on the market but are daunted by the long to-do list? You may be suffering from overexposure to HGTV. These are some of the symptoms: Do you secretly think you are a long-lost Property Brother? Do you want to marry Chip and Joanna Gaines? Are you still toying with the idea of knocking down that wall? You may be overexposed to home improvement psychology and don’t know it. Yes, those projects you see on TV do make a difference, but most homes don’t need a wholesale makeover.
I sold a home in Hanahan that was on the market for less than a week after not selling with another agent earlier in the year. We did not rip out the kitchen or have the entire interior repainted. We used a much more effective and more importantly cost – effective technique – staging. My clients were talking about all the things they thought they needed to do before putting it back on the market and I told them not to spend a dime until my staging expert and I could see the home in person.
We started by walking through the home and making a list of things to edit. I am convinced that the home did not sell the first time because there was too much furniture that had accumulated through the years and too much “stuff” in general. We made a list of the furniture to be taken out to show just how spacious the home actually was. We also itemized the decor items that needed to be packed up before the photographer arrived. We gave them their assignments throughout the inside and outside of the house and then set to work ourselves.
We literally shopped their house. The large vases in the kitchen replaced the visual clutter in the dining room hutch with their simple lines and pops of color. All but one of the silk plants were removed and personal collections were packed for moving. Perhaps the most difficult task was the living room. My clients had recently purchased two large sofas and a large chair that filled the space. They were super comfy but the placement was not ideal. We moved them and some other pieces around the room to better advantage. “But you can’t see the tv from the chair over there.” Said the wife. I explained that they did not have to live that way, but that it worked better for the photography. Every smart Realtor® knows that every home sale starts on the internet, and the most important factor for that medium is high quality, attractive photos.
My staging expert and I have lots of experience in knowing what makes for great shots, and sometimes it’s very minor changes. This home has a pool. We cleaned up some “stuff” that had accumulated around the exterior, moved one of the tables from the screened porch to poolside and asked the homeowner to purchase a colorful plastic pitcher and two beverage glasses, with strict instructions not to spend more than $5. I told her “Since there is nothing in your glassware that is suitable, please go to the dollar store and get something that’s blue or green, and make sure it’s something you will use at the new house.” She spent $4 and got just the right thing to make an inviting shot that helped the viewers imagine themselves relaxing by the pool.
The only other expense, was in the master bedroom. The homeowner was waiting to get new bed linens so that they would look great in the new house. This bedroom was gold and the new house was blue. She thought she had to match the walls to the linens when in fact, contrasting colors make for better pictures. I put her in my car and we drove to Bed Bath and Beyond. They had nice things but the ones we liked were too expensive. We found just the right thing at Target and spent only $70 and got shams, comforter, bedskirt and pillows! And, they worked well for the new home as well. On photography day, I stole the fancy square pillows from the guestroom long enough to get the shot and put them back for that photo.
Sweat equity was really what this particular home needed to sell and sell quickly for full asking price. Call me and I will prepare a comparable market analysis for your home, hire the staging expert on my nickel, and together we can decide what we can do to make your to-do list shorter and less expensive so you can find your next dream home now.
If you believe that sticking a sign in the yard and throwing some pictures from your phone on the internet is sufficient to get the job done selling your home, then by all means that’s what you should do. After all, isn’t that what real estate agents do? You are correct of course, that’s what some agents do. If you want the best advantage to sell your home quickly and for top dollar however, think about what a great agent can do for you before you decide to list your home as FSBO.
With Zillow and Realtor.com, you can certainly look up what nearby home sales have shown. Importantly however, you can’t see what the net has been because those sites do not take into consideration closing costs and other details that may reduce net proceeds. You also do not have access to the kinds of details an experienced Realtor® has in order to perform a detailed market analysis. Days on the market, current inventory rates, and transaction histories all factor into a professional Comparative Market Analysis.
In the digital age, not as many buyers are driving around neighborhoods they like to find a house. More often, they sit in their pajamas at 10:30 at night and “like” stuff online. The National Association of Realtors ® reports that only 10% of buyers find their homes via yard signs, and only 1% of buyers find them through newspaper ads.
Will you hire a professional, architectural photographer and professional stager to make sure you grab eyeballs on the internet? Hundreds of Facebook friends can’t hurt, but your cousin in Denver may not be in the market in Mt. Pleasant. dunes properties have a team of people (largely millennials) helping me with social media strategies, and is on top of the latest technology. We are spread across a number of platforms with sophisticated methods for driving business and capturing data. As an agent, I have too many balls in the air to spend hours studying this ever-changing marketplace, and as a homeowner you likely have other priorities as well.
Do you know how to qualify a buyer before you invite them to your home? Can you take time off from work to meet a stranger from Craigslist? Have you thought about techniques to protect yourself if a situation seems dicey? Are you trained to know how to keep a stranger from casing your home? Agents are trained in situations like these, allowing for easy showings and more free time for you.
I’ve worked with real estate agents who have submitted old versions of contracts, neglected to submit the HOA Addendum, and had no idea about the new flood insurance disclosure required at the first of this year.
As a homeowner, it may be even more difficult to navigate the sea of paperwork involved in a real estate transaction and protect yourself at the same time. The sales agreement alone is eight pages (10 pt type) of legalese. Ask yourself if you are prepared to face the potential legal repercussions if you neglect a mandatory disclosure.
According to the National Association of Realtors® the average FSBO home sold for $208,700, while the average agent-assisted sale was $235,000 – more than making up a typical commission and then some. Since over 80% of all FSBOs eventually choose to sell their homes with an agent, what not make your life easier? These are only a few reasons to work with a great agent. Call me if you are still not convinced, because I have a few more.
New home or first home – it doesn’t matter. Decorating can be a challenge for us all, even the professionals. One technique I have appropriated in my nearly 20 years in real estate and construction is to find something you love and let it inspire you. I’m not sure if I learned it from a designer, architect, or a combination of perspectives, but it helps me refine my thinking when it comes to every design choice.
Perhaps you have a blouse with colors that speak to you. Maybe it’s a rug you found with a unique design that is the epitome of “your style.” In my current home, I took inspiration from a silk batik banner adorned with comical fish. Years ago, I admired it in a small art gallery on Martha’s Vineyard where I once lived. I have always been drawn to textile art and I loved the colors and the humor. My husband remembered that I liked it and bought it for me for Christmas.
When we moved to Charleston 14 years ago, I decided that banner had the perfect tropical vibe for my new home in the south and that it would be the inspiration for transforming my “stuff” from my New England saltbox to suit my contemporary home on Johns Island.
My new living room was cavernous with 18 foot ceilings and low light. I chose a shade of yellow from the fish body somewhere between Citrine and old gold for the living room, dining room, and hallways. It was warm and bright without adding “heat” as it is at the “cooler” end of the color wheel’s warmest tones.
All the wet areas – kitchen and bathrooms are the same turquoise on the lightest shade of the fish gills. Tropical and fun, the turquoise shade worked well with the cabinets in those rooms because they were all the same wood and they had an orange undertone. Bedrooms and my very bright Four Seasons room are a dark stone grey with a lot of blue from the darkest part of the fish. It’s cool and restful in rooms with lots of light or bright white plantation shutters.
My favorite fish have giant orangey-red kissy lips and I generously sprinkle oranges and reds around the house in accents. I chose wooden fish decorated with red and gold mirror tiles for the mantle in the gold living room and added a turquoise throw on the gold sofa. There’s a small red cabinet for the dog’s leash and toys next to the front door with a turquoise shell plate for keys and such. The area rugs are all in different patterns but in the same family of turquoise, orangey reds, and golds. Because I loved the tropical theme, I have also collected artwork with palm trees and sea life.
I did not go and buy all new things. The “beige-ish” sofa in the sunroom in bad need of recovering after 20 years came from Massachusetts but the beige color is accented with nubs of reds and blues that work fine with the grey walls. The rug that came with it, and would not work anywhere else in this house, remains with the sofa. The print of Vineyard Haven Harbor, classically New England, is not tropical, but I love it and it still feels coastal. I kept the down comforter covered in hydrangeas (I bought it in the 90’s and it was cute then) and have since recovered it with a grey and gold duvet.
When showing homes, clients frequently comment that the decorating is all over the place. Too many different colors and accents in different rooms that are not harmonious can make a house feel disjointed. One purple bedroom, one pink, one green and not in the same hue or intensity can make it hard to envision “your stuff” in the space. Over 11 years some things were retired and replaced, but having a concept helped me wade through the gazillions of choices and gives the house a certain continuity. Having an inspiration helps me focus on the choices, but it never prevents me from finding a treasure that deviates from the palette but gives me joy.
By now, most people know what it means to “buy local.” In Charleston for instance, it’s known that buying local seafood ensures the upmost freshness, and similarly by supporting local book stores, your dollars circulate in the community. But what difference does it make in real estate transactions? In my experience, the local providers make transactions go more smoothly every step along the way.
You might ask “what difference does it make if I use some nationally known lender that I can access online versus a local lender?” The convenience of logging on at 10:00 pm and typing in information might seem like an easier option than meeting face to face, or even scheduling a call with a local lender. In the long run however, the convenience on the front end might turn out to be less convenient once the process begins in earnest. One out of state lender told my client that she did not need a CL-100 (letter indicating no termites or damage) and she nearly cancelled the appointment to inspect. This lack of knowledge about the specifics of SC real estate transactions can create speed bumps when closing a deal, and even the difference in time zones have caused problems with closing on time. Most importantly, I find local lenders also understand the pricing in this market better than national companies and tend to approve loans for higher price point because they know the market will support it.
Living in the Lowcountry means risks and hazards that may be unfamiliar in other areas of the country. An insurance provider based in Kansas may not be aware of our flood insurance risks, wind and hail issues, and even earthquakes here. For example, there was a tremor in Summerville in June, and they happen regularly. Local agents know this, and can advise you accordingly.
Appraising real property is not an exact science. It takes judgement, discernment and experience. The difference between Folly Beach and Johns Island is not just 15 miles of travel. It can be the difference between a quirky beach house and a horse farm – with the same price tag. Appraisers may be well-qualified in Columbia to make a judgement about different kinds of property, but may be geographically incompetent here. Appraising homes in a subdivision in a more homogeneous area is also a different challenge than the many diverse types of homes and lifestyles here in the Charleston market.
So often I work with clients who are getting advice from a family member or friend who is a real estate agent in another part of the country, or even this state. It’s only natural to seek that advice from family members who only have their best interests in mind, to help them make a big decision. More often than not, that advice does not apply in this particular market. The market in New Jersey is very different than Mt. Pleasant. An experienced, local Realtor® knows that a well-priced home in Riverland Terrace is not going to last long, and offering 20% below asking price will not get the job done. I’ve had more than one client lose an opportunity because of advice they received that does not apply to this unique market with its many equally unique sub-markets. Similarly, in North Carolina, it is customary to have the appraisal done before the home inspection, where here it is the opposite. My clients who moved to Iowa, learned that finished space that is heated and cooled but in the basement is not counted in the total square footage. We don’t have basements for the most part, but here all heated and cooled space is counted.
There are so many things that can affect real estate transactions on all fronts, and working with local experts can make all the difference in getting to closing.
Are you thinking of using a discount real estate agent to sell your home? After all, all they do is stick a sign in the ground and put it on MLS – anyone can do that, right? WRONG. There is much more to selling your home for top dollar.
First and Foremost – Marketing
Real Estate in 2019 has one primary driving force and that is “click-bait.” What is click bait? It is the undefinable but compelling reason to click on a photo. Because virtually all real estate searches begin with the internet, in order to be competitive your home must warrant that first click. People do not even take a full second to see a photo before they move on to one that is more attractive. I use a professional, architectural photographer to ensure that my clients get the maximum clicks both with great photos and by selecting the “money” shot for that first image – often not the front of the home.
Another way to ensure clicks, is to stage the home for more compelling photos. Both of these things can be expensive and discount agents can’t afford the time or money to do them. I have proven time and time again it works, and I can actually save you money by focusing your efforts on what will really make a difference.
Once a buyer clicks the next most important thing is the description. Professional writing makes for a description that goes beyond the bedroom and bathroom count but sells the essence of what is great about your home. I bring the entire Dunes marketing team to sell your home. Moreover, I will be present at every showing – after all, who can sell your home better than I can!
Experience – No Substitute
Often discount agents are inexperienced and not confident of their training or self-worth to do the job or they wouldn’t sell themselves short. I know the value I bring to the table.
One particular irritant I experience is other agents doing the minimum work until they are asked for more. I will make certain that all relevant documents are readily available to other agents in advance such as plot plans, insurance declarations, HOA documents, and relevant flood insurance information to prevent delays in communication.
I am so fortunate to have discovered great resources over the years. I found the best home inspector, best architectural photographer, my fantastic stager, and a real estate attorney that has never been less than perfect in addition to countless construction specialists that clients might need along the way. Discount agents typically will not go that extra mile.
In addition, I have a 26-point Service Level Agreement that describes everything I will do to get you top dollar and sell quickly.
As a Certified Negotiation Specialist, I have been trained in the art of negotiation – fewer than 1% of REALTORS® have that designation. If I can’t negotiate for myself to receive what I am worth, how can I be a tough but fair negotiator for my sellers?
It’s Rarely Just a Business Decision
Even the most pragmatic business professionals I encounter find this to be an emotional decision. They swear up and down that it will not be that way and invariably something in the process triggers an emotion he or she was not expecting. This is a life-changing move. I am a trained problem-solver, and I have a sales manager and broker to also help me manage problems as they arise. If I can get you a higher sale price, the commission will pay for itself.
Have you ever bought or purchased a lower priced service and then regretted not stepping up to the better quality in the first place? Are you willing to take that kind of chance with selling your largest asset?
With an interest rate increase still in the cards this year, combined with the American political landscape and global economic events, a cooldown could occur by winter. Presently, however, summery growth prevails as many locales are reaching near-record prices not seen in more than a decade.- According to Charleston Trident Association of Realtors
Market Stats through May 2016
REGIONAL REAL ESTATE SALES
CHARLESTON, SC—(December 10, 2015) 1,029 homes sold in November in the region at a median price of $246,000 according to preliminary data released today by the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors® (CTAR). In November 2014, 987 homes sold at a median price of $222,067.
Year-to-date data shows that sales volume is 14% ahead of where it was last year, with 14,758 sales through November 2015 and the regional median price has increased by 5.3%, currently $228,000. Through November 2014, 12,933 homes had sold at a median price of $216,352.
- Upper Charleston Peninsula
- Downtown Charleston
- Mount Pleasant (below IOP connector)
- Mount Pleasant (above IOP connector)
- Folly Beach
- Isle of Palms and Wild Dunes
- Sullivans Island
- Kiawah Island
- Seabrook Islands
- Daniel Island